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Dan

Worcester, MA, United States | Member Since 2007

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  • The Ask: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Sam Lipsyte
    • Narrated By Sam Lipsyte
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (134)
    Performance
    (45)
    Story
    (46)

    Milo Burke, a development officer at a third-tier university, has "not been developing": after a run-in with a well-connected undergrad, he finds himself among the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is offered one last chance by his former employer: he must reel in a potential donor--a major "ask"--who, mysteriously, has requested Milo's involvement.

    Erica says: "Fantastic"
    "Portrait of liberal guilt"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So as a liberal, I've always found conservatives' obsession with the concept of liberal guilt amusing. To hear them tell it, liberals just can't get over the whole killing the Indians and enslaving the blacks thing, and all the men have vagina envy.

    Well, none of the liberals I know are anything like that, but the main character in this book clearly is, and as far as I could tell, Lipsyte doesn't mean this ironically. Milo is jealous and bitter at those who have gotten more out of life than him, and simultaneously sorry for everyone who has less. He works a crummy job asking wealthy people to donate money to an art school for self-indulgent and privileged students, and is fired after a false allegation of sexual harassment by a male colleague. He's rehired on the sole condition that he can get a large check out of a former college friend, who has a special personal mission he thinks Milo would be perfect for. Meanwhile, Milo's wife is cheating on him and refuses to stop, and his son is enrolled in an experimental daycare, which is constantly causing problems.

    One of the funniest scenes has Milo asking a colleague whether she would read a book about a guy like him. No, she replies, he's just not relatable. I won't go quite that far. Lipsyte is clearly a writer of some talent (I haven't read any of his other works). But in this book he seems obsessed with what strikes me as a caricature of the political left. To be clear, this is an at least somewhat approving portrait. Lipsyte is certainly not a conservative offering up Milo as a cautionary tale. But neither does he offer us any hope in Milo's struggles. Nobody really cares about Milo, including the reader, because he is an inherently sad and unlikable person, and because in the grand scheme of things he's not nearly as badly off as some others. Milo is simply stuck in the system, every bit as much at the end of the novel as at the beginning. Typical liberal, always blaming society for his problems.

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